President Nasheed praises Cancun climate talks, but warns more work ahead

President Mohamed Nasheed has praised the outcome of climate change talks that concluded last week in Cancun, Mexico as helping to restore confidence in international commitments like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Writing to Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Nasheed said that the country “strongly supports” the Cancun Agreements and the impact they could have on helping countries all over the world in pursuing sustainable economies.

A source in the President’s Office told Minivan News that is was encouraging that the Cancun Agreements effectively “anchored” many of the main aspects of the Copenhagen Accord that the Maldives had supported in its own commitments to tackle impacts of climate change.

However, the source conceded that commitments outlined during the Cancun talks alone would not be enough to combat concerns held by the Maldives and other nations over the impacts climate change could have on rising sea levels and the wider ecosystem.

“Cancun alone won’t be enough,” said the source.  “We need to do more in raising green awareness.”

The aspects that are thought to have been anchored in Cancun include securing emissions reductions from every developed and developing nation alongside the raising of US$100 billion in funding each year to aid sustainability initiatives based on low carbon developments for smaller economies from 2020.

For the Maldives, 2020 proves to be a very big year with President Nasheed committing to make the nation Carbon Neutral, an ambition the president last month claimed will be a disaster for the nation if not met.

However, the source said that Cancun did not require any significant changes in the Maldives green policy, claiming the country had made the most ambitious commitments of any nation in the world.

The exact nature of what this carbon neutral commitments will entail for the nation has not yet been outlined, with a “masterplan” currently being compiled with funding from the La Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild.  It is hoped that this “carbon Neutral Masterplan” will outline definite measures that can be adopted by other nations to follow in attempts to pursue more sustainable economies.

“Adopting carbon neutrals goals is not just important because climate change is a major global problem, which it is, but because it also makes economic sense,” added the President’s office spokesperson.

Climate change consideration

However, not everyone has been convinced that the potential impacts of climate change on rising sea levels within low lying nations like the Maldives are a vital issue to address for business.

Andrew Harrison, who was recently appointed CEO of GMR Male’ International Airport, said that at least from the viewpoint of insurance companies, the risk of sea levels increasing to a point that disrupted operations at the site were not even considered in its premiums.

“When we became involved in the bid process, we engaged three leading companies who are at the forefront of analysing geophysical activity, climate change and the impact rising sea levels,” he said.  “Insurers are notorious for considering even unimaginable risks, so I can tell you that if no insurance company considers this in any of their policies for the Maldives, we think that the risk is pretty low.”

Speaking to Minivan News last month, environmental organisation Greenpeace said it believed the Maldives acted more as a symbol than a practical demonstration of how national development and fighting climate change can be mutually exclusive.

Wendel Trio, Climate Policy and Global Deal Coordinator for Greenpeace International, believed that the Maldives can nonetheless play an iconic role in promoting the potential benefits of adopting alternate energy programmes.

In looking specifically at the Maldives, the Greenpeace spokesperson accepted that the country is somewhat limited by its size in the role it can have as an advocate for more sustainable business and lifestyles.


Clean Energy Viable and Better for Security: President Nasheed

Low carbon development is both possible and economically viable, said President Nasheed in a speech at the “International Conference on Climate, Energy Environment: How to Build a New Global Deal” in Rome.

The climate issue must be understood as an economic, financial and security issue, he said. Climate change was a very real threat to humanity but there was “an organised scheme” in many developed countries against climate change.

Climate deniers were able to stop the momentum gained after Copenhagen, the President claimed, and the only way to regain the momentum was 60s style street action. “Soon after Copenhagen, sceptics started working,” he said.

“We have more than 16 islands where people have to be relocated, our fresh water is being contaminated… our ocean temperatures are rising and therefore our fish stocks are dwindling,” said the President.

The conference was organised by the Centre for American Progress, and the Institute of European Democrats and Sustainable Future Centre.


Maldives’ youth delegates return from Copenhagen

Three of the four young climate delegates from the Maldives have returned from representing the island nation at the youth climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The event preceded the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP 15) that began today, where 192 parties are meeting with the intention of formulating an agreement to stabilise the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Organisers hope the conference will prove as successful as COP3 in 1997, known as the Kyoto Protocol, which led to agreements on mandatory emission reductions.

Aishath Shifana, Mohamed Ansar and Aminath Riuman Wasif returned home on Sunday while the fourth Maldivian delegate, Mohamed Axan Maumoon, will remain in Denmark for a several more days after being chosen to meet the Danish Prime Minister.

Axan is revelling in his role as youth climate ambassador of the Maldives, appearing on award-winning US news program Democracy Now, the largest community media collaboration in North America.

“On the basis that you know what you are doing is wrong and you can see that the victim is begging for mercy, would you commit murder?” Axam asked the program’s viewers.

The other school students were welcomed home at the UN building by Education Minister Dr Mustafa Lutfy and UN staff including Mansoor Ali, Unicef representative to the Maldives.

Mansoor urged them to “keep up the momentum”, by trying to engage more of their contemporaies in tackling climate change, pledging the support of Unicef, while Lutfy offered the support of the education ministry to buoy the efforts of the schools’ climate clubs.

“I hope the trip was useful from an individual perspective as well as anchoring your efforts into the future,” Mansoor said, adding that he hoped the students had also had time to see Denmark.

Officer-in-charge of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Maldives, Dr Arun Kashyap, suggested the students continue to work together and develop a proposal for a youth climate summit to be held in the Maldives.

Coping in Copenhagen

The Maldivian delegates explore a forest in Denmark
The Maldivian delegates explore a forest in Denmark

During the week-long visit to Denmark, over 200 delegates aged 14-17 from 42 countries set up stands in Copenhagen town hall promoting their country’s efforts to combat climate change. The Maldivian delegates confessed theirs “was one of the most popular”, with many people fascinated by the immediate threat climate change and sea level rise poses for the low-lying island nation.

“It was very interesting to see how people responded to the issue of sea level rise,” Wasif explained. “Everyone kept saying: ‘we’d better go and see the Maldives before it is under the sea.'”

The Maldivians’ response, Ansar said, was to say “we don’t want to be under the sea. We’re an innocent [party] suffering from the actions of developed countries.”

The students’ enthusiasm for their subject was quickly picked up by the attending media and the group were inundated with interviews throughout their time in Denmark, frequently making national headlines.

There were a lot of journalists and we were always busy with interviews,” Ansar said. “I don’t think we’ll ever be afraid of journalists again,” he laughed. The trick, he explained, was “to talk normally, as you would to a friend.”

Seeing an opportunity to gain support from the education ministry, Shifana asked Lutfy to “please give the school climate clubs more support, because they are the least popular clubs in school.”

“We would like more students to join and be as interested in the environment as we are,” she said.

The four students were chosen from across the Maldives. A short-list of 10 competed in a quiz broadcast on TVM, from which the final four were selected.